Women and Land in Africa
An Advocacy and Communications Approach


Please note that the information presented in this section is updated as of 2001, reflecting the date by when the report was completed. The website is a valuable research resource providing useful information, but this report and other such documents on the site should be viewed subject to the above caveat.

Report Contents

  1. Overview
  2. Advocacy and Communication Program
    1. Program Objectives
    2. Program Activities
    3. Project Outcomes
    4. Program Challenges
    5. Lessons Learned from the Program
    6. Suggestions for Future Work on Program
    7. Conclusion of Program Activities
  3. Tentative Evaluation and Future Possibilities


This is the final narrative report of all activities conducted under Grant # 990-1735, on the basis of our proposal of February 1999. As stated in that proposal, and update reports of July 1999 and July 2000, this second phase of the Cultural Transformation and Human Rights in Africa project continued to focus on issues of women’s access to and control over land that emerged from the first phase (1996-1998). Accordingly, one set of activities for this phase was the addition of two country studies on Mozambique and Rwanda to the five country studies completed during the first phase (Ethiopia, Cameroon, Nigeria, Senegal and Uganda). The other, more important or primary, set of activities for this phase was the development and implementation of advocacy and communication activities in partnership with the African Women’s Development and Communication Network (FEMNET).

In this final narrative report, I am pleased to report that both sets of activities have been successfully concluded. The country studies of Mozambique and Rwanda were done according to the concept and methodology applied in the earlier five studies, and are now being prepared for placement on the web site of the project and publication in a book, as explained below. Thus, all seven country studies are now done and being prepared for publication.

Regarding publication, the web site of this project www.law.emory.edu/WAL is now completed and open to access from anywhere in the world. We also concluded contracts with Zed Books of London for the publication of two books out of all the studies and advocacy work conducted under this project. The first book’s manuscript, entitled Cultural Transformation and Human Rights in Africa, which I edited, is already in production for publication by the spring of 2002. The second book, tentatively entitled Women and Land in Africa, edited by Muthoni Wanyeki, the Executive Director of FEMNET, include all seven country studies and reports on advocacy and communication work. The full manuscript of this second book has already been delivered to Zed Books, and publication is expected by the summer of 2002.

The most important and distinctive feature of this whole second phase of the project is the advocacy and communication work done by FEMNET under the auspices of this project. I will now turn to a detailed explanation of this set of activities, including an assessment and suggestions for future work in this field. Finally, I will offer a tentative evaluation of the project as a whole, and some suggestions for its possible continuation.

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This program of activities was developed and implemented by FEMNET for this project in order to disseminate findings and promote the recommendations of all of the initial five county studies and, to the extent possible, the latest two countries added in this second phase. In particular, the program developed and implemented an advocacy model in relation to Ethiopia, with a view to applying it in other countries in the future.

a. Program Objectivesb. Program Activitiesc. Project Outcomes
d. Program Challengese. Lessons Learned from the Programf. Suggestions for Future Work on Program
g. Conclusion of Program Activities  .

2a. Program Objectives

The objectives of the program were as follows:

Development Objectives

The long-term objectives of this program are to:

Immediate Objectives

The immediate objectives of this program were to: Next: Program Activities | Back to Report Contents | Back to Advocacy and Communication Program Contents

2b. Program Activities

Activities envisaged for the program included:

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2c. Project Outcomes

The outcomes of the project thus far are as follows:

The Development and Dissemination of Advocacy and Media Packages

During the period under review, the Ethiopian advocacy and media package was revised on the basis of suggestions made during the December 2000 workshop. Printing of this revised advocacy and media package was withheld to allow for presentation during the July 2001 workshop. A further 100 copies shall now be printed in Amharic, as per the participants' request.

The advocacy and media package for Cameroon was also completed during this period. It is now being translated into French as, due to the bilingual nature of the country, a decision was made to print 100 copies in English and 100 in French for dissemination to agricultural/environmental, human rights, women's human rights and policy- and law-making institutions in that country.

The advocacy and media package for Senegal is currently being completed.

The completed advocacy and media packages for Nigeria and Uganda were disseminated to a range of national-level stakeholders (as described above) during the reporting period. To allow for some feedback, an assessment questionnaire was designed and mailed out at the same time. To date, no questionnaire has been received back, suggesting a need to design another approach to achieve feedback.

The Ethiopian Training and Advocacy Process

During the week of July 15-22, 2001, the last of the Ethiopian workshops was held. Over 40 people attended the workshop and the Ethiopian Women Lawyers Association (EWLA) has expressed an interest in undertaking coordination of the plan of action developed during the workshop. In analyzing the workshop, it is important to look at the preparatory process that led up to it.

The Preparatory Process

Based on the experience of the December 2000 advocacy-training workshop for non-governmental organizations, the consultant had recommended holding a planning meeting and two more workshops. These workshops would include one for the non-governmental organizations, given the level of advocacy skills noted at the December 2000 workshop, in order to achieve the development of a national plan of action. However, in the event of this planning period (given the political situation in Ethiopia at the beginning of the year), identifying and locating some of the key resource people proved much more time-consuming and difficult than had been expected. Thus, it was decided that the planning meeting would be held and the two workshops would be combined into one.

The four types of resource people that it was felt were necessary to achieve an effective analysis of the advocacy and media packages and the preparation of a national plan of action were:

In addition, the author of the original Ethiopia study, Zenebeworke Tadesse was invited to participate as a resource person. A translator was also identified as the workshop was to be held in Amharic. As far as possible, the consultant tried to identify individuals with a background in participatory facilitation and training methodologies.

Letters were sent to representatives of the EWLA, the Ethiopian Media Women’s Association (EMWA) and the Panos Institute (who had helped mobilize participants for the December 2000 workshop) in March 2001. Unfortunately, there was political unrest in Ethiopia around this time, with over 40 people reportedly killed, Addis Ababa University closed, a curfew instituted, 2000 students detained and both students and military personnel seeking political asylum in Kenya. The only person to whom a message had been sent that responded was Zenebeworke Tadesse. She informed us that she would not be able to participate in the process, as she was due to be away on sabbatical. Suffice it to say that sending faxes and e-mail was difficult during this period. Fortunately, two of the resource people were in other workshops with us outside of Addis Ababa and one visited Nairobi. We were able to establish that it was all right to proceed with the workshop. In the end, the following resource people were identified:

The Planning Meeting (May 29, 2001)

On May 29, 2001, the consultant held a planning meeting for the workshop with two of the resource people in Addis Ababa. Two other resource people were unable to attend and so another meeting was held between the consultant and these people on July 1, 2001. The purpose of the meeting was to ensure team building amongst the resource people and to collectively conceptualize the workshop. During these meetings, a format for the workshop was designed and the nature of desired participants were agreed upon as follows:Finally, women who were themselves survivors of women’s land rights violations were invited so that they would be able to share their experiences. We also tried to ensure regional representation since Ethiopia is a federal republic.

The December 2000 workshop participants were invited to join the sessions on the last two days to enable all who had been involved in the Ethiopian advocacy process to participate in planning a way forward.

The final program of the workshop is contained in the workshop report.

The Second Advocacy Workshop (July 16-22, 2001)

A five-day workshop was held during the week of July 16-22, 2001. The workshop objectives were to:

Participants received literature pertinent to all these areas, including samples of the Amhara and Tigray Proclamations on Land, handouts on gender, as well as copies of articles from EWLA’s journal, Berchi.

The sessions planned and conducted during the workshop were on gender and human rights training, policy-making, lawmaking, advocacy as well as monitoring and evaluation (to enable the monitoring and evaluation of implementation of the national plan of action). Several panel discussions were also incorporated into the program to enable participants to hear from survivors and experts in various areas of land rights. Meaza Ashenafi and the Consultant also shared experiences of campaigning for women’s rights in Ethiopia and Kenya, respectively.

The workshop received immense support from both EWLA and EMWA, whose members’ attended as well as additional representatives of various media houses. Teshome, the Dean of the School of Law at the University of Addis Ababa, who had been a resource person in December 2000, also attended.

The workshop was successful, the objectives were achieved, and the participants were happy. It was observed that the gender and gender mainstreaming training sessions enabled them to give a gendered analysis of the policy and legal documents presented to them. Participants also stated that it was good that they had the opportunity to hear first-hand from women who were survivors of land rights violations about their experiences. They particularly commended the facts that the workshop methodology had been participatory and that the workshop had been conducted in Amharic (the national language of Ethiopia), enabling them to fully understand and engage with the proceedings.

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2d. Program Challenges

With respect to the development and dissemination of the advocacy and media packages, the key challenge was the underlying assumption in the project proposal that the research papers from the five countries constituted a sufficient base for developing the advocacy and media packages. This was not the case. For the advocacy and media packages for all five countries, additional research had to be done.

This was especially so as, due to the passage of time, some changes had occurred in some of the countries. For instance, the Ethiopian research paper was one of the older ones. And, in the Cameroonian research paper, the authors did not analyse women's land rights in the context of matrimonial legislation. Thus, critical legal impediments to women’s access to and control over land, such as the Trade Act (which permits a husband to stop his wife from engaging in commercial enterprise merely by notification to the registrar of persons), were missed out. Clearly, it is important that women’s land rights be analysed within the context of Constitutions, family law, and national gender policies in order to get a full picture.

The means of sourcing feedback in respect of the four countries where there have been no follow up advocacy processes (Cameroon, Nigeria, Senegal and Uganda) is still an unresolved challenge. While assessment questionnaires were mailed out with the Nigerian and Ugandan advocacy and media packages, none have been returned.

With respect to the pilot advocacy process in Ethiopia, the primary challenge underlying the project was that of ownership. Despite having Ethiopian members, FEMNET, as a regional organisation (and Emory University for that matter), was essentially an external actor trying to influence internal policy- and law-making processes. Policy-making is extremely sensitive and so the nuances of how to work with Ethiopians in a diplomatic and inclusive manner became extremely important. Identifying local partners and resource people and using participatory methodology were helpful in this regard.

The issue of the language was a challenge because in Ethiopia the national language is Amharic, which the Consultant did not speak.

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2e. Lessons Learned from the Program

In both workshops, the use of an Ethiopian researcher was commended. The identification and creation of alliances with credible respected local allies, such as EMWA, EWLA and the Panos Institute (which hosts the Ethiopian gender forum) was crucial. It also helped that people outside of the women’s human rights network were enlisted from the start. Ironically, whereas the Ethiopian Lawyers Association was not too keen, we got support from the University of Addis Ababa, including the Dean of the School of Law. He was particularly concerned because he is engaged in research on land law. Agricultural and environmental institutions were also concerned as land provided common ground for them. EWLA has stated that they will pursue the national advocacy plan developed in the workshop and work with other partners to realise it.

The use of participatory methodology in the Ethiopian workshops was important for several reasons. The fact that sessions did not follow a lecture format prevented participants from feeling bored or overwhelmed. This was particularly important in the second five-day workshop, during which a lot of information had to be delivered and discussed. Because advocacy is a multi-disciplinary process, in order to enable all actors to understand the relevance of various other approaches and professions, it was important to incorporate some conceptual sessions on these approaches and professions.

There was also the issue of political sensitivity. Land has been nationalised in Ethiopia and this has ramifications for the nature of land rights that any member of the populace can enjoy. In the process of discussing women’s land rights, a critique of the land rights available under the current Constitution was inevitable. Yet, there were government actors in the room. It was found that beginning discussions of the various concepts (gender, human rights, women’s human rights, policy, law, etc.) at an initially purely conceptual and general level helped create a safe environment, enabling an honest discussion later on the specific national mechanisms needing attention. Also, the fact that policy-makers were brought on board as participants was critical. In the December 2000 workshop, for example, the representative from the Office of the Prime Minister of Women’s Affairs was asked to describe the policy-making structure of Ethiopia.

The fact that FEMNET is a regional organization and has been involved in the Beijing process also helped to create trust as both non-governmental and governmental actors had encountered the organization.

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2f. Suggestions for Future Work on Program

Some suggestions for the future undertakings of the various aspects of the current project are as follows:

The Advocacy and Media Packages

The Ethiopian participants had requested the publication of their revised advocacy and media package in Amharic, as this would enable further dissemination. This should be explored.

Similarly, the possibility of producing audio packages should be explored. A small sample was produced during the second Ethiopian workshop. This has implications for coordination, as it is important to have the same kind of multi-disciplinary approach, to widen the skill base available.

Given that the assessment questionnaires which accompanied the dissemination of the Nigerian and Ugandan advocacy and media packages have not worked as an effective means of sourcing feedback, it is important to identify some other means of sourcing feedback.

The Advocacy Process

The Ethiopian advocacy process can continue under the auspices of EWLA. Some support for this should be considered. In addition, EWLA should link up with advocacy processes on land currently underway in Ethiopia, including an initiative by the Eastern African Strategic Support Initiative (EASSI) and an initiative by the Office of the Prime Minister of Women's Affairs on land law reform.

If it is possible to do so, it would be good to replicate the Ethiopian experience in the other countries where research took place (Cameroon, Nigeria, Senegal, Uganda, Rwanda, and Mozambique) as it contributed immensely to the production of an effective advocacy tool and has enabled local ownership of the process. If this happens, the original researchers should be involved to the extent that is possible in developing national level advocacy activities.

Having a regional experience-sharing forum after having had more national-level advocacy activities on women’s access to and control over land would be useful. This forum should explore the possibilities of involving some of the regional inter-governmental institutions such as the African Union (AU), as well as the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA), the latter because privatization of land is a concern emerging out of the research studies.

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2g. Conclusion of Program Activities

Given the lack of feedback (with the exception of feedback from Ethiopia during the advocacy process) on the advocacy and media packages, it is difficult to say whether or not the communications of the research work has been useful to national level stakeholders. However, the advocacy and media packages have been distributed at various other regional processes and workshops that FEMNET is involved in and positive oral feedback has been received by national organizations from the countries concerned. This is a good sign.

The advocacy process in Ethiopia was successful in that a broad range of national-level stakeholders were reached and made aware of the research findings. That they participated in the further definition of advocacy objectives around women's access to and control over land and that an Ethiopian organization, EWLA, has now taken over the process of coordinating work on their national advocacy action plan is also positive.

FEMNET found it a difficult yet exciting process to be involved in as it strengthened their thinking around their ability and capacity to engage in systematic efforts at the national level based on broad regional objectives. It is our hope that the Ethiopian advocacy process shall continue and that we shall have the opportunity to similarly engage, on the basis of lessons learned, with the advocacy processes in the other countries researched.

Next: Tentative Evaluation and Future Possibilities | Back to Report Contents


It is too early to assess the results or long term impact of this project, but I wish to offer a few tentative personal reflections.

- I feel truly privileged to have had the opportunity to work on these issues, have learned a lot from working with my African colleagues who have invested much of their time and energy in this field, and will continue to do so in the future.

- The work we have been able to do during the two phases has confirmed my conviction there is a strong need for this approach to the promotion of respect for the human rights of women in African societies. However, this experience has also emphasized the complexity of the issues, and the difficulties of implementing the original concept and methodology of the project. While working with African researchers based and working on their own countries has its clear advantages, one has to also allow for a lot of unforeseen problems of fieldwork under such strict time constraints.

- These experiences also confirm the wisdom of focusing on developing a few models of research and advocacy that can be adapted to conditions in different countries, rather than to seek more comprehensive regional coverage. Yet, the clear advantages of strongly contextual and localized approaches diminish the utility of transplanting models from one place to another. A balance needs to be maintained between these two perspectives.

- Although FEMNET was able to do truly outstanding work on the advocacy and communication side, it is now clear that we did not allow enough time and resources for these activities in the proposal and budget of this second phase of the project.

Drawing on these and other lessons of this phase, we are now working with FEMNET to develop a proposal for a next phase that will add four country studies (Morocco, South Africa, Tanzania and Zimbabwe). We also propose to implement advocacy campaigns in four of the countries on which studies have already been done (Mozambique, Rwanda, Senegal and Uganda).

I hope that you will this brief narrative report sufficient, and please let me know if you have any questions or concerns.

With best regards and appreciation

Abdullahi A. An-Na`im, Ph.D.
Charles Howard Candler Professor of Law
Emory University School of Law